If was finished last Friday night. They didn't want it to be done, in fact, they thought there may have been a chance they could keep going but mistakes, overconfidence, anger and apathy were the leading cast of characters that determined their destiny that ended their hopes of ever going any futher. Instead they will turn their uniforms in today for the last time.
It was parent's night last week at North Adams-Jerome on the gridiron. The boys lined up in numerical order and waited as their parents were introduced taking their place in a line across the field.
With roses in hand, some mothers were crying while proud fathers held in their emotion as the senior boys walked up the 50 yard line flanked by the two people who supported them, loved them and watched them succeed and fail over the years.
I took my pink rose, hugged Lukie and we held hands as we stood and cheered for the other boys.
While I wasn't nearly as emotional about this evening as other parents, there were a myriad of emotions flooding that field. Some parents just plain got caught up in the fact that it was the last time they would watch their boy play football. But the boys were emotional for a different reason.
You see, it had been a season of highs and lows. This was the team that didn't lose. Since junior high, this group of boys had won nearly every single football game and had dominated the league. They were strong, powerful, smart and played well together. And the beginning of this season was no different. They came out shouldered with expectations of Ford Field on their backs and right out of the blocks they were full steam ahead and couldn't be stopped....until they played division 7 super power, Detroit Loyola. A team full of underpriviledge African American boys with more power and athleticism than this little farming community team could handle. They got smoked on 7 mile that Friday night and walked away with deer in the headlight looks on their faces.
The next week they would play a good team, but certainly a beatable team. After the spanking in Detroit they set out to be on the other end of the lashing and again, got smoked on the opposite side of the state and instead of being stunned, they walked away mad, frustrated and with the consequences of a lack of self control.
Climax-Scotts handed them their next loss but it wasn't until the following game that they realized they were finished for the season. It was homecoming and they were playing their rival, Pittsford, a team that was ready for the battle. They came storming into North Adams with a single goal of knocking the rams out of the playoffs... and they succeeded.
Low-headed, this team quietly sang the fight song at the end of their defeat and wallowing in self-pity they slowly, painfully left the field.
With a week off to regain a little composure and be ready for their final game, they took advantage and worked hard. It didn't matter who their opponent was this night, they were ready to get back to their winning ways and the team that showed up that night was the team all of us remembered. They were confident. They were smart. They were tough. They were unstoppable. And they won.
The fight song that night was a louder and stronger. This was the team we knew. This was the winning team. And as they left the field the air was bittersweet. A team that should have been getting ready for the playoffs ended their season on a high note.
As these same boys turn in their football uniforms they will head into the gym to get ready for basketball....another sport where they have been successful over the years. And hopefully they will be confident and smart and tough and hopefully they will be unstoppable.